Posts Tagged ‘Catalonia’

Spain prosecutors seek up to 25 years jail for Catalan separatists

November 2, 2018

Spanish prosecutors called Friday for Catalan separatist leaders to be jailed for up to 25 years on charges of rebellion or misuse of public funds over last year’s failed secession bid.

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In a statement ahead of an upcoming Supreme Court trial, the prosecution service said it was seeking prison sentences against 12 Catalan leaders ranging from seven to 25 years, the latter jail term being sought for former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras.

Spanish prosecutors are seeking a 25-year jail term for former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras, pictured above. (AFP)

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But in a sign Spain’s socialist government disagreed, the attorney general’s office announced it would ask for just 12 years jail for Junqueras, accusing him of sedition and misuse of public funds rather than the more serious charge of rebellion.

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The sensitive trial is expected to start in early 2019 — more than a year after Catalan leaders attempted to break from Spain in October 2017 by staging a referendum despite a court ban and subsequently proclaiming independence.

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Spain’s then conservative government moved swiftly to depose the Catalan executive, dissolve the regional parliament and call snap local elections in December.

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Some Catalan leaders like deposed regional president Carles Puigdemont fled abroad, while others like Junqueras remained and were put into custody pending the trial.

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Apart from Junqueras, prosecutors want two influential Catalan civic leaders, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, and former regional parliamentary speaker Carme Forcadell jailed for 17 years.

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In a separate case, they said they were also seeking four to 11 years jail against former regional police leaders including Catalonia’s then police chief Josep Lluis Trapero, whom they also accuse of rebellion.

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In its statement, the prosecution service said pro-independence leaders planned to use all possible means to achieve secession, “including — knowing that the state wouldn’t accept this situation — any violence needed to secure this criminal result.”

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It said separatist leaders had instigated “big citizen mobilizations” that represented an “intimidating force” and had also used the regional police force, with its 17,000 agents, which followed their orders.

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The charge of rebellion has caused controversy in Spain, not just among those who support Catalan independence but further afield among legal experts.

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According to Spanish law, rebellion is “rising up in a violent and public manner,” to among other things “breach, suspend or change the constitution” or “declare independence for part of the (Spanish) territory.”
Military officers behind a 1981 attempted coup in Spain were found guilty of rebellion, for instance.

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But many legal experts contest the use of rebellion in the Catalan case, saying there was no violence during the secession bid, bar that waged by Spanish police on October 1, 2017 as they tried to stop people from voting in the banned referendum.

AFP

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Catalan government accused of playing ‘dangerous’ game after unrest

October 2, 2018

Catalonia’s separatist executive came under fire Tuesday, accused of playing a “dangerous” game after the regional leader encouraged radical independence activists to carry out disruptive acts on the anniversary of a banned referendum that culminated in clashes.

Hundreds of separatist protesters knocked down barriers at the regional parliament in Barcelona on Monday evening, clashing with police in stark contrast with the usually peaceful nature of Catalonia’s independence movement.

Analysts said this reflected the movement’s divisions and lack of direction, with some pushing for direct confrontation with Madrid and others calling for moderation, while at the same time trying to keep the spirit of last year’s secession bid alive.

Image result for Elsa Artadi, Photos
Elsa Artadi

Reacting to the clashes, Catalan government spokeswoman Elsa Artadi acknowledged it was “the first time that we are faced with this situation within the independence movement.”

She told Catalan television that a “minority” took part in the unrest.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez rapped regional leader Quim Torra, asking him to “not endanger political normalisation by encouraging radicals to lay siege to institutions which represent all Catalans.”

“Violence isn’t the way forward,” Sanchez, who is attempting to negotiate with Catalan leaders and also depends on separatist lawmakers to prop up his minority government, said in a tweet.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez

– ‘Very dangerous’ –

Monday’s clashes forced the leader in Catalonia of anti-secession party Ciudadanos to leave the building under escort in unrest that topped a restive day in the northeastern region that remains sharply divided on independence.

Radical activists called by a group naming itself the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDRs), many of them hooded, cut roads and railway lines, encouraged by Torra — a staunch independence supporter himself.

“The (independence) movement is divided between radicals and an executive that isn’t sure where to go, and which is also divided,” said Oriol Bartomeus, politics professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

“I think Torra shares the CDRs’ ideas but he knows perfectly well that the independence movement will lose if it goes down that road.

“Torra is in the middle,” he said, describing the situation as ” very dangerous.”

In an editorial, Catalonia’s El Periodico daily wrote that “much has changed, it seems, in just one year,” accusing Torra and his regional ministers of playing a “double game” it described as “unsustainable.”

Catalonia’s banned independence referendum on October 1, 2017 was marred by a violent crackdown by police ordered to stop peaceful voters from casting their ballot, in footage that went around the world.

A year later, the tables appeared to have turned with images of radical independence supporters cutting roads and railway lines, muscling their way into a government building and clashing with police.

– Violence condemned –

Miquel Iceta, head of the Socialist party in Catalonia, told Spanish radio the unrest “highlighted that a regional president cannot encourage mobilisation if he is then unable to guarantee security.”

He said it also showed “that the Catalan government’s discourse, as it is far from reality, generates frustration and violence among its most radical followers.”

Image result for Miquel Iceta, photos

Miquel Iceta, head of the Socialist party in Catalonia

Even former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who is in self-exile in Belgium after last October’s secession bid, condemned the violence.

Image result for Carles Puigdemont, photos

Carles Puigdemont

“If they are hooded they’re not from the 1-0,” he tweeted in reference to the referendum last year, which went ahead despite a court ban and eventually led to a short-lived unilateral declaration of independence on October 27.

That prompted then conservative prime minister Mariano Rajoy to sack the regional government, dissolve the Catalan parliament and call snap local elections.

“If they use violence they’re not from the 1-0. We did it with our faces uncovered and in a peaceful way,” Puigdemont added.

AFP

Catalan separatists clash with police in Barcelona

September 30, 2018

Clashes between Catalan separatists and police in Barcelona left 14 people injured and led to six arrests Saturday as tensions boiled over days before the anniversary of the Spanish region’s illegal referendum on secession, which ended in violent raids by security forces.

Separatists tossed and sprayed colored powder at police officers, filling the air with a thick rainbow cloud and covering anti-riot shields and police vans. Some protestors threw eggs and other objects and engaged with the police line, which used batons to keep them back.

Pro independence demonstrators throw paint at Catalan police officers during clashes in Barcelona, Spain, on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. Catalan separatists clashed with police on Saturday in downtown Barcelona as tensions increase before the anniversary of the Spanish region’s illegal referendum on secession that ended in violent raids by security forces. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

The clashes erupted after local Catalan police intervened to form a barrier when a separatist threw purple paint on a man who was part of another march of people in support of Spanish police demanding a pay raise. Officers used batons to keep the opposing groups apart.

There were more confrontations as the separatists tried to enter Barcelona’s main city square where 3,000 people supporting Spanish police had ended their march.

Separatists shouted “Get out of here, fascists!” and “Independence!” at the Spanish police supporters, who responded by shouting “We will be victorious!” and “Our cause is just!”

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau pleaded for peace when the first scuffles broke out.

“I make a call for calm,” Colau told Catalunya Radio. “This city has always defended that everyone can exercise their rights to free speech.”

The Catalan police told The Associated Press that the six arrests were made on charges of aggressions against police officers. The investigation was continuing.

One police officer was hurt, although it was not immediately clear if the officer was among the 14 people reported by health authorities as needing medical treatment. Three were taken to hospital while the others were attended to on the street.

There were ugly episodes between members of the opposing groups.

An AP photographer saw a group of several people who had come to support the Spanish police being chased by a mob of around 100 separatists, some of whom tried to kick and trip the supporters before they could reach the safety of local police. Separately, a woman punched a man who supports Catalan secession in the face before police could separate them.

The pro-police march had originally planned to end in another square home to the regional and municipal government seats but 6,000 separatists, according to local police, gathered in the square to force regional authorities to alter the march’s route. Some separatists arrived the night before and camped out in the square.

“The separatists are kicking us out,” said national police officer Ibon Dominguez, who attended the march. “They are kicking the national police and Guardia Civil out of the streets of our own country.”

The police march was organized by the police association JUSAPOL, which wants Spain’s two nationwide police forces, the national police and Civil Guard, to be paid as much as Catalonia’s regional police.

JUSAPOL holds marches in cities across Spain, but Saturday’s march in Barcelona comes two days before Catalonia’s separatists plan to remember last year’s referendum on secession held by the regional government despite its prohibition by the nation’s top court.

That Oct. 1 referendum was marred when national police and Civil Guard officers clashed with voters, injuring hundreds.

JUSAPOL spokesman Antonio Vazquez told Catalan television TV3 that while the march’s goal was to demand better salaries, they also wanted to support the national police and Civil Guard officers who had been ordered to dismantle the referendum.

“The national police and Civil Guard agents who acted last year were doing their duty and now they are under pressure and we have to support them,” Vazquez said.

Last year’s police operation that failed to stop the referendum has become a rallying call for Catalonia’s separatists, who point to it as evidence of Spain’s mistreatment of the wealthy region that enjoys an ample degree of self-rule.

“Outrageous! They shouldn’t be here. They came here to hit us a year ago and today they want to make an homage to that. It is pathetic,” said secession supporter Montse Romero.

Pro-secession lawmaker Vidal Aragones of the extreme left CUP party called the police march an “insult to the Catalan people.”

While Catalonia has seen huge political rallies take place without incident for several years, two weeks ago police had to intervene to keep apart rallies by Catalan separatists and Spanish unionists in Barcelona, the region’s capital.

Catalonia’s separatist-led government is asking Spain’s central authorities to authorize a binding vote on secession. Last year’s illegal vote led to an ineffective declaration of independence by Catalonia’s parliament that gained no international recognition and triggered a months-long takeover by central authorities.

Polls and recent elections show that the region’s 7.5 million residents are roughly equally divided by the secession question.

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AP video journalist Renata Brito and AP photographer Daniel Cole contributed to this report.

Spain’s Popular Party picks Rajoy’s successor

July 21, 2018

Spain’s conservative Popular Party (PP) on Saturday picked Pablo Casado, 37, to replace Mariano Rajoy after the former prime minister was ousted in a no confidence vote in June.

Casado’s rival for the top job, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, told journalists she was conceding the race ahead of the official result announcement after PP deputies cast their ballots in Madrid.

The appointment of Casado, a lawmaker who has promised “hope” with a generational revamp of the party, will be seen as a lurch to the right for the party.

He has taken a hardline stance on Catalonia, calling for the addition of offences such as illegally calling a referendum to the criminal code to boost Spain’s legal response to the secession threat.

© Pierre-Philippe Marcou, AFP | Spanish lawmaker Pablo Casado (L) celebrates after winning a Popular Party (PP) election to succeed former Spanish prime minister and outgoing PP leader Mariano Rajoy (R) in Madrid on July 21.

“Dialogue doesn’t work with those who want to break the law,” he said this week.

Casado is also against decriminalising euthanasia as promoted by the Socialist government and wants to lower income and corporation taxes.

He will have to breathe life into a party which lost three million voters between the 2011 general elections, when Rajoy won an absolute majority, and the last polls in 2016.

Many have migrated to Ciudadanos, a centre-right party, angry over the series of corruption scandals that hit the PP in recent years.

Rajoy was ousted in a no-confidence vote in June, partly seen as a censure for his handling of the Catalan independence crisis, and a perception that he was weak on rooting out corruption.

(AFP)

Spanish Socialist Sanchez succeeds Rajoy as prime minister

June 1, 2018

Socialist Pedro Sanchez took over as Spain’s prime minister on Friday, after outgoing leader Mariano Rajoy lost a parliamentary confidence vote triggered by a long-running corruption trial involving members of his center-right party.

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Spain’s Socialist (PSOE) leader Pedro Sanchez walks with fellow party members Jose Luis Abalos and Adriana Lastras as he arrives at Parliament to attend the final day of a motion of no confidence debate in Madrid, Spain, June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Socialist party head Sanchez becomes Spain’s seventh Prime Minister since its return to democracy in the late 1970s following the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

But Rajoy’s departure after six years in office casts one of the European Union’s top four economies into an uncertain political landscape, just as another – Italy – pulled back from early elections.

Sanchez won Friday’s no-confidence motion with 180 votes in favor, 169 against and 1 abstention.

He suggested on Thursday he would try to govern until the scheduled end of the parliamentary term in mid-2020. But it is unclear how long his administration, with only 84 Socialist deputies in the 350-member legislative assembly, can last.

With most Spanish parties and Sanchez himself being pro-European, investors however see less broader political risk there than in Italy.

Anti-establishment parties in Rome revived coalition plans on Thursday, ending three months of turmoil by announcing a government that promises to increase spending, challenge European Union fiscal rules and crack down on immigration.

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 Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, gestures as he attends a session of the Upper House of Parliament in Madrid (AFP Photo)

“We’ve had a rude awakening of European political risks this week… but the situation in Spain is very different from Italy,” said Michael Metcalfe, head of global macro strategy, State Street Global Markets.

“The parties leading in the polls in Spain are centrists so we’re not getting the proposals for fiscal extremes as we have in Italy.”

Many observers said Sanchez was in any case unlikely to call any vote until after European, local and regional elections take place in May next year.

He has already committed to respecting a budget passed by Rajoy, and the fragmented parliament means Sanchez will find it hard to row back on structural reforms passed by his predecessor, including new labor laws and cuts in healthcare and education.

Leftist Podemos, which will offer parliamentary support to Sanchez’s government, is also unlikely to gain big influence over the new Prime Minister, who is keen to differentiate his Socialist party from its anti-austerity ally and win back centrist voters.

Rajoy had conceded defeat prior to the no-confidence vote, earlier telling deputies: “Mr Sanchez will be the head of the government and let me be the first to congratulate him.”

Rajoy’s position had become increasingly untenable, undermined by his status as head of a corruption-tinged minority government as well as a divisive independence drive in the wealthy region of Catalonia.

The Basque Nationalist Party, whose five seats were key to Sanchez securing enough parliamentary backing, withdrew support from Rajoy after dozens of people linked to his center-right People’s Party (PP) were sentenced to decades in jail in a corruption trial.

Two Catalan pro-independence parties as well as Podemos also backed Sanchez. Market-friendly Ciudadanos, leading in the national opinion polls, was the only major party that supported Rajoy.

Sanchez, who is expected to be sworn in by Monday and appoint his cabinet next week, has promised to start talks with the Catalans but said he will not give them an independence referendum.

editing by John Stonestreet

Tensions rise on Catalan streets as divisions over secession deepen — “Cultural violence and hate remain and that should be of huge concern.”

May 29, 2018

 

From pro-independence yellow crosses vying with Spanish flags on beaches to party offices vandalised, Catalonia has seen a rise in tensions as divisions over secession from Spain deepen.

“There is latent violence, violence that can be felt in the air but doesn’t usually materialise into physical violence, and it’s on the rise,” warns Sonia Andolz, a political expert in conflict analysis at the University of Barcelona.

© AFP / by Daniel BOSQUE | A woman sits on the beach among yellow clothes shaped as crosses near Barcelona during a protest in support for Catalonia’s jailed separatist leaders

“There is a rise in tone, confrontation between people who push or insult each other. Hate speech against others is becoming normal.”

Over the past weeks, this region of northeastern Spain with 7.5 million people has been the scene of a war of symbols.

Independence supporters have filled streets, buildings or beaches with yellow crosses or ribbons, the colour used to protest against the jailing of separatist leaders after a failed independence bid last October.

Those who want to remain in Spain then promptly remove these symbols.

Early this month, police had to intervene to prevent two groups from clashing in Barcelona.

Last week in Canet de Mar, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of the Catalan capital, three independence supporters were injured when a group of hooded people destroyed a “cemetery” of yellow crosses installed on the beach.

On Sunday, anti-independence protesters in Barcelona tried to force a police officer to remove a yellow ribbon hanging on the city hall, and then filled a beach with Spanish flags.

The conflict even reached the regional parliament where a session was interrupted on Friday because Carlos Carrizosa, a lawmaker for the main anti-independence party Ciudadanos, removed a yellow ribbon from a seat.

The political situation in Catalonia remains blocked as Madrid refuses to restore direct rule in the region because its new president Quim Torra has named four jailed and exiled separatist leaders as part of his regional government.

– Attacks on party HQs –

While the independence movement is far from new in Catalonia, tensions erupted in earnest after a banned independence referendum on October 1 which was marred by police violence.

The jailing of separatist leaders and a failed declaration of independence on October 27 — rejected by around half of the population in Catalonia — also provoked tensions.

Protests on both sides of the divide then increased.

While not a major force in Spain, far-right groups waded in, leaving a trail of assaults against independence supporters.

Meanwhile separatist protests that had always been peaceful started getting disruptive with demonstrators clashing with police in March.

Political parties have not been spared either.

They have denounced acts of vandalism against their offices, from graffiti to broken windows.

The office of Ciudadanos in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Catalonia’s second biggest city, has been vandalised 13 times since 2015, says its manager Miguel Garcia.

Some of these acts involved filling the entrance with animal faeces.

“It’s just another sign of the tension that Catalonia is going through, there are people who don’t tolerate our ideas,” says Garcia.

Ciudadanos has counted around 30 acts of vandalism in the northeastern region over the past year, a similar figure to that tallied by the Catalan branch of Spain’s Socialist party, also against independence.

Pro-independence parties have also suffered but according to the ERC separatist party, they don’t count them so as not to convert “one-off events into a category.”

“Some want people to think that Catalan society is becoming radical and uses violence, but that’s not true,” says David Bonvehi from the PDeCAT, the party of deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.

The PDeCAT saw one of its office in Barcelona covered in faeces on Monday.

– Boiling frog –

In an article in Catalonia’s La Vanguardia daily, writer Antoni Puigverd compared the situation in the region to the boiling frog syndrome.

That says if a frog is plunged into boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is put into tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will be cooked to death.

“This very low intensity violence, this vandalism, these ritual clashes… are the warm water in which the Catalan frog is bathing as it tries to ignore that the fire is still on, and every day the temperature rises a little,” he wrote.

Andolz, who has experience mediating conflicts in the Balkans and Middle East, doubts that physical violence will become widespread but warns the situation “is more dangerous than it seems.”

“In conflicts, physical violence is the worst but the easiest to stop,” she says.

“Cultural violence and hate remain and that should be of huge concern.”

by Daniel BOSQUE
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AFP

Catalonia: German prosecutors push for Carles Puigdemont’s extradition

May 22, 2018

The Schleswig-Holstein state prosecutor is advancing his case for the extradition of former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont. However, the state’s top court has ruled that Puigdemont cannot yet be rearrested.

    
Puigdemont in Berlin

The public prosecutor in the state of Schleswig-Holstein is preparing the paperwork to extradite former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont to Spain, where he would face charges of rebellion and disturbing the public order following a referendum last autumn in which a majority of voters expressed a clear preference for the semiautonomous region’s secession.

On Tuesday, however, a court ruled that Puigdemont, who was taken into custody by German authorities in March at the request of Spain, could not be rearrested because he doesn’t pose a “flight risk.”

Puigdemont, who on April 6 was ordered released pending a decision, is currently in Berlin. A court had already ruled earlier this spring that he could not be extradited on charges of rebellion.

mkg/kms (Reuters, dpa, AP)

Madrid moves to block second Puigdemont comeback bid in Catalonia

May 9, 2018

Spain’s executive said Wednesday it would block Carles Puigdemont from being re-appointed president of Catalonia, putting pressure on the separatist camp to pick another candidate and form a regional government after months of limbo.

© DPA/AFP/File / by Marianne BARRIAUX | Catalonia’s ousted leader Carles Puigdemont attends a meeting with members of the Catalan political platform “Junts per Catalunya” in Berlin on April 18, 2018

Madrid has requested the Constitutional Court cancel a reform voted for last week by Catalonia’s majority separatist parliament that would allow Puigdemont — currently in self-exile abroad — to be appointed president without having to be present, government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo told reporters.

The court will have to examine the request and rule on it but while it does that the reform will automatically be suspended, which means Puigdemont won’t be able to be appointed as planned later this week.

Mendez de Vigo said this meant the Catalan parliament would not be able to call a session to appoint Puigdemont “at the risk of committing the offence of disobedience”.

Puigdemont’s allies had announced Saturday they would try and have him appointed by May 14.

But they also recognised that if they couldn’t, they would pick an alternative candidate to unblock the political impasse in Catalonia, which was put under direct rule by Madrid on October 27 after a failed secession bid.

That day, Rajoy also sacked Puigdemont and all his ministers after the regional parliament declared independence following a referendum that wasn’t sanctioned by Madrid and was banned by the courts.

He also called snap regional elections for December 21, which separatist parties went on to win, once again getting an absolute majority in parliament.

By then, Puigdemont had already left for Belgium in self-imposed exile.

But since then, all candidates proposed by the separatist camp to lead Catalonia have fallen flat, as they are either abroad and wanted by Spain, or already in prison, charged with rebellion.

Critics of the independence camp have charged they are merely dragging the process out to try and garner sympathy.

Speaking in the Senate on Tuesday, Rajoy slammed the separatists’ attempts to have Puigdemont re-appointed.

He accused them of “having put Catalan politics in an absurd loop in which the personal interests of one person — just one — are placed before the collective project of an entire society”.

Catalan separatists, however, say Puigdemont is their legitimate leader as his Together for Catalonia grouping was the most voted out of all separatist parties in the December elections.

They also say the rebellion charge against him and others is disproportionate, and describe those already in jail in Spain — like former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras — as “political prisoners”.

by Marianne BARRIAUX
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AFP

Catalan separatists want leader-in-exile Puigdemont as president

May 6, 2018

Catalan separatists, meeting in Berlin, vowed Saturday to attempt once again to get their leader-in-exile Carles Puigdemont reinstalled as president of the Spanish region while adding that they don’t want to hold fresh elections.

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VP of the Catalonia’s parliament Josep Costa (L), former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont (2-L) and Catalonia JxCat party spokesperson, Elsa Artadi (2-R) are seen prior to a work meeting with members of their parliamentary group (EPA Photo)

“We don’t want new elections,” said Eduard Pujol, spokesman for Puigdemont’s Together for Catalonia grouping.

However an attempt will be made to install the former Catalan president by May 14 at the latest, he added after talks with Puigdemont after talks in Berlin.

Puigdemont was sacked by Madrid after Catalonia made a declaration of independence last year following a regional referendum not sanctioned by the Spanish government.

The Catalan independence leader then left for Belgium where he lives in self-imposed exile. An earlier attempt to get him reinstated was blocked by a Spanish court.

Puigdemont was detained in Germany in March after Spain issued a European arrest warrant against him. He was later released on bail.

On Friday the pro-independence Catalan parliament backed a law allowing him his investiture while abroad, something the Spanish government has ruled out.

Ines Arrimadas, leader in Catalonia of the anti-independence Ciudadanos party, has rejected this “Puigdemont law,” describing it as “tailor-made for a fugitive.”

Since he fled Spain Puigdemont has been a divisive figure among the separatists.

On Saturday the influential grassroots independence group ANC announced the results of an opinion poll, saying that most of its members support the return of the “legitimate president.”

However, if this proves impossible, ANC supporters want a new government formed without a return to the ballot boxes.

The regional parliament must elect a new president by May 22 or organize fresh elections.

If Puigdemont is not reinstalled, his supporters will propose that ANC leader Jordi Sanchez, currently imprisoned in Madrid over the failed independence bid, be given the job.

But last month Spain’s Supreme Court rejected a request by Sanchez to be let out of jail and sworn in as the regional head.

If that option proves impossible “we will open the door to another alternative,” Pujol told reporters in Berlin, adding only that “none of the names you have speculated about are on the table.”

The Spanish press has mentioned economist Elsa Artadi, who is an ally of Puigdemont.

AFP

Police up security in Catalonia as more protests loom

April 4, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File | Authorities say security will be increased in Catalonia, particularly in front of government buildings and European institutions
BARCELONA (AFP) – Police upped security Wednesday in front of government buildings in Catalonia and provided special protection for several political leaders, judges and prosecutors as further pro-independence protests loom, authorities said.Separatist activists have in the past weeks taken advantage of the void left by a renewed crackdown on the restive region’s independence movement to step up their protests by blocking roads and clashing with police, raising fears of radicalisation.

“From today (Wednesday) we are implementing a new plan to guarantee security and public order with regards to the various scenarios that could take place in Catalonia,” a spokeswoman for the Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalonia’s police force, told AFP, without giving further details.

Enric Millo, the central government’s representative in Catalonia, added that “security measures have been increased for people and public equipment that have been targeted by protests, graffiti or assaults recently”.

The central government’s representative office said security would be upped particularly in front of its buildings in Catalonia, as well as European institutions.

Several political leaders, judges and prosecutors will also be given special protection, it added, without saying who.

Judge Pablo Llarena of the Supreme Court, who is in charge of proceedings against separatist leaders, is already under protection after having received threats, the interior ministry has said.

Millo said these measures were implemented due to “an increase in belligerence” in the past weeks as separatists have protested against the jailing of more pro-independence leaders in Spain and the detention of former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont in Germany.

Puigdemont faces extradition to Spain after a failed bid to secede last October that saw Madrid take Catalonia’s autonomy away and impose direct rule.

The protests were called by the Committees for the Defence of the Republic, groups of pro-independence activists spread out across the region.

In Barcelona, some protesters tried to occupy the central government’s representative office, heavily guarded by police, on several occasions at the end of March, leaving more than 100 people injured.

In a joint statement last week, these groups said “the Catalan spring” had “erupted,” in reference to a series of protests which began in Arab nations in 2011.